In 1987 a plan to create an extensive mobility scheme for higher education was approved by the European Community (EC). One part of this was the Erasmus programme - for students in order to provide the opportunity to spend part of their studies abroad.

In 1989 the Erasmus Bureau invited 32 former Erasmus Students for an evaluation meeting in Gent, Belgium. After this meeting Désirée Majoor, one of the former Erasmus students present, decided to found an organisation to help Erasmus Students, which was the starting point for the Erasmus Student Network. She aimed to solve the problems that were brought up in the evaluation meeting, using the principle of 'students helping students', which is still the most important motto of ESN volunteers. On 16th of October 1989, the first section using the name Erasmus Student Network, was founded in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Following that, ESN sections were founded in various European universities, and with financial support from the EC, in October, 1990 the meeting for the official founding of ESN International was organised in Copenhagen, Denmark with 49 participants from almost all member states of the EC. ESN International became a legal association. Desiree Majoor from Utrecht, Netherlands was the first international president in ESN history.

By 1994 ESN already had 60 sections in 14 countries and it was growing year by year and in 2009, 20 years after the creation, the ESN network consisted of 280 sections in 32 European countries as well as in Azerbaijan. New technology has tremendously improved collaboration between sections and frequent meetings strengthen the ties between ESN members as well as serve the possibility to exchange ideas and work together for a better future.

In September 2005, ESN established an official seat in Brussels, where now the international board, the secretariat, and interns are working full time. Besides the ESN Office, there is an ESN House in Brussels, where the International Board lives and where the ESN volunteers can stay while exploring the European capital.

In 2017 ESN reached the milestone of 40 countries in the European Higher Education Zone, where ESN volunteers are workin day in and day out to help international students. At that moment there are over 500 local sections. Besides the great impact ESN has on the life of volunteers and international students, ESN is playing a big rol in the evaluation of the Erasmus+ programme for 2020 and the opinion of ESN is valued in European politics. 

The interest among students to spend part of their studies abroad is continuously increasing. When more exchange programmes are being created, ESN continues to assist not only those who are abroad as Erasmus, but all the international students, also full degree students or exchange students from outside the European Higher Education Zone. ESN stands for empowering youth, bringing people together and creating room for cultural exchange

Join the movement, Join ESN!